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Twin brothers Army Master Sgts. Frederick and Derick Aidoo joined the Arizona National Guard together in 1993 and continue to serve side by side. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew Murphy PHOENIX – Twin brothers Derick and Frederick Aidoo recently pinned on the rank of master sergeant here -- literal brothers in arms who serve the state and nation in the Arizona Army National Guard.

PHOTO: Twin brothers Army Master Sgts. Frederick and Derick Aidoo joined the Arizona National Guard together in 1993 and continue to serve side by side. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew Murphy 
 
Their colleagues say they serve with two times the dedication, two times the commitment and two times the honor.

Like many twins, the Aidoos have a tendency to finish each other’s sentences. About his service in the Guard, Derick said, “The Army has kept me on track. It keeps life on track with fitness and lifestyle.” Then Frederick said, “It’s a foundation. Something to tell your kids,” and Derick chimed in with, “about being a soldier and proud to tell people who you are.”

The brothers are two-time combat veterans, having served in Iraq in 2004 and in Afghanistan 2010. While Frederick is an architect in his civilian life and Derick is a construction engineer, their military careers and training are mirrored.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Hector Mendoza deployed with the brothers to Afghanistan. Frederick served as Mendoza’s noncommissioned officer in charge. Mendoza had an opportunity to observe the brothers in action.

“If one does one thing, so does the other. Their work ethic, their fitness level, their commitment -- it’s exactly the same,” he said. “Frederick worked with me and Derick worked with another chief warrant officer. During the entire deployment, the brothers worked nonstop and refused to take a day off. I really admire them.”

Looking back at their 19 years of service, the brothers chuckled over their memories of basic training and advanced individual training. “The drill sergeants didn’t like us too much, because they couldn’t tell us apart and we were in the same group,” Derick said. “So if they told one of us to drop and do pushups, the other had to do them, too.”

The Aidoos trained in supply and logistics. Frederick currently serves as the operations NCO in charge for the 198th Regional Support Group, and Derick is the logistics support NCO. They speak in unison about their love of the Guard, working with soldiers and helping families, crediting leaders who have pushed them to excel.

Army Capt. Edwin Longwell is the assistant plans officer for the 198th RGS and the twins’ current supervisor. “The Aidoos always see what needs to be done and they get it done,” he said. “They don’t hesitate to take action and they don’t hesitate to speak up to help their chain of command. They are a cohesive team and their performance is identical as they are.”

Though they have risen to the rank of master sergeant, the brothers said they have no plans to slow down.

“Having a sibling join the Guard with you is a good idea,” Derick said. “I can always talk to him about the Army. We help each other and we feed off each other and it motivates us.”

Frederick picked up on his brother’s comment.

“Now we just look at the next opportunity,” he said.
 
Written May 5, 2014 By:
Air Force Capt. Matthew Murphy
Arizona National Guard

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Air Force 1st Lt. Laura Jones poses for a photo after preparing for a flight April 21, 2014, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Jones was involved in an automobile accident Jan. 2, 2014, that kept her from flying for three months. Jones is a 85th Flying Training Squadron T-6A Texan II instructor pilot. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jimmie D. Pike LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Her career seemed ruined, her dreams grounded.

PHOTO: Air Force 1st Lt. Laura Jones poses for a photo after preparing for a flight April 21, 2014, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Jones was involved in an automobile accident Jan. 2, 2014, that kept her from flying for three months. Jones is a 85th Flying Training Squadron T-6A Texan II instructor pilot. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jimmie D. Pike 
 
"At the beginning, I thought I'd never fly again," Air Force 1st Lt. Laura Jones said, recalling her Jan. 2 accident.

On her way from San Antonio International Airport back to base, a car next to her had a tire blow out. The driver lost control and swerved into Jones's vehicle traveling at about 75 mph, she said.

"Shortly after, a passing National Guardsman arrived, held my neck to immobilize and keep me from damaging my cervical spine and talked to me until the paramedics arrived," said Jones, a T-6 Texan instructor pilot from the 85th Flying Training Squadron. "It all happened pretty quickly -- from getting hit to the helicopter taking me to San Antonio Military Medical Center, only a couple of hours had passed. I maintained consciousness the entire time."

Jones suffered broken bones and other injuries during the collision -- injuries that grounded her flying career.

"The accident left me with a shattered left femur, lacerations on my kidney and spleen, my right wrist was broken in four places, my jaw was broken in two places, and my lungs were bruised, among other scrapes," Jones said. "After I heard there were no neck, spine or eye injuries, I knew I would be flying soon enough."

The accident was followed by 11 days in the hospital and several grueling months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

"We started her with basic range-of-motion exercises to work up to light weights and ensure she didn't overwork herself," said Kira Pie, a physical therapy assistant. "We now have her going through impact workouts, like skipping, to get her body adjusted to the feel of pressure on the joints and bones."

Even though her body was aching and her workouts were strenuous, Jones worked through the difficulties with a single goal: to return to flying.

"My main concern was when I would be able fly again," she said. "When I talked to the flight doctors, they said I'd be shooting to fly again in June. I was bummed that it would take so long. After I started progressing so quickly, I knew I could fly sooner."

Jones' hard work and dedication in physical therapy paid off April 21, when she had her first flight since the accident and felt as if things had gone well.

"The flight went great. I knocked off a lot of rust and have my confidence back," Jones said. "I felt better than I expected I would."

Jones' group commander took notice and commended Jones for her initiative.

"The fact that she is flying this soon after an accident that should have been fatal is testament to her hard work, determination and desire to fly," said Air Force Col. Timothy MacGregor, the 47th Operations Group commander. "She belongs here as a first-assignment instructor pilot to teach the students what it means to be a pilot in the world's greatest Air Force."

Jones' next step is preparing to take the reins as an instructor once again.

"I'm hoping to be back flying with students in the next week," Jones said. "The only obstacle at this point is coming off a four-month break and getting proficient in every maneuver so I can be the best instructor possible."

As Jones works toward instructing again, she remembers why she has worked so hard in the first place.

"I was one of the kids who always knew they wanted to be a pilot," she said. "I grew up around Air Force jets; I knew that's where I belonged. Now, I'm looking forward to being one of the Tigers again. This is the best squadron I could ask for."

Written May 2, 2014 By:
Air Force Airman 1st Class Jimmie D. Pike
47th Flying Training Wing

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Sherrill, right, stands with Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after catching Pujols' 500th career major league home run, April 22, 2014, at Nationals Park in Washington. Sherrill, a long-time Angels fan, moved into the left-center-field bleachers of shortly before Pujols' milestone homer. Courtesy photo  WASHINGTON – Even before he took his seat at Nationals Park here April 22, Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Sherrill said, he fantasized about what he would do if he somehow caught the milestone home run ball off the bat of slugger Albert Pujols.

PHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Sherrill, right, stands with Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after catching Pujols' 500th career major league home run, April 22, 2014, at Nationals Park in Washington. Sherrill, a long-time Angels fan, moved into the left-center-field bleachers of shortly before Pujols' milestone homer. Courtesy photo 
 
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman began the game against the Washington Nationals two home runs shy of 500 in his Major League Baseball career. He struck for home run 499 in the top of the first inning. Anticipating Pujols’ next time at bat and seated in foul territory, Sherrill said, he and a friend spotted an opportunity to sit on the fair side of the foul pole, creating an outside chance of being in the area where the potential home run might land.

With Pujols down in the count with one ball and two strikes, Sherrill said, he started to feel that it just wasn’t in the cards that night. The next pitch was a sinker that Pujols took deep to left-center field.

“I could tell where it was going,” Sherrill said. “It was well above me, so I just jumped out of my chair and started running up the stairs.”

Sherrill said he looked up to see another man running down the steps – the race was on.

“I knew it was going to him. … I gave up on the ball at that point,” he said. “But it bounced off him, and I was able to grab it off the hop.”

He said he looked down at the ball in his hands, and all at once he realized he had just caught Pujols’ 500th home run. At this point, the decision literally was in his hands: Give the ball back to Pujols, or keep the high-value souvenir for himself.

“Even before that day, … I had already decided if I somehow caught it, I would give it back,” Sherrill said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. When I actually had the ball in my hand, nothing changed. I still felt the same way.

“It’s his milestone. It’s his ball,” he continued. “Who am I to try to sell it back to him?”

As Chris Gordon, the man who missed his chance at catching the home run, shook Sherrill’s hand and congratulated him, Sherrill said, he felt compelled to offer a consolation prize, and arranged for Gordon and his children to accompany him to meet Pujols.

“I felt really bad for him,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it just slipped through his fingers.”

As security escorted him through the stadium and beyond the restricted areas, Sherrill said, fans made it known what they thought he should do with the baseball.

“People were screaming at me as I was walking away, telling me to sell it [and] how much [Pujols] makes a year. … People made sure I knew that it was valuable,” he said.

But through it all, he said, the decision he made while entertaining his fantasy of catching the ball was never in jeopardy. Minutes after catching the ball and already under scrutiny, his integrity was unwavering.

The entire experience was unforgettable, he said, adding that he feels a sense of satisfaction in giving the ball back to its rightful owner. Pujols himself has said Sherrill was “very honest to give it back,” and that he appreciates it.
 
Written May 1, 2014 By:
Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Vucic
Air Force News Service

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, poses with his Marine Corps Marathon bib on “Broadway,” a passageway aboard the USS New York, Oct. 26, 2014. Due to pre-deployment training with the 24th MEU, Heemer ran the Marine Corps Marathon on a treadmill aboard the New York, finishing under the four-hour mark. The 24th MEU is conducting its final pre-deployment training exercise before a deployment at the end of the year. Courtesy photo ABOARD USS NEW YORK AT SEA – He was perhaps the very first finisher of the 39th Marine Corps Marathon, but he didn’t finish anywhere near Arlington, Virginia. Instead, he finished at sea aboard the USS New York -- on a treadmill.

PHOTO: Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, poses with his Marine Corps Marathon bib on “Broadway,” a passageway aboard the USS New York, Oct. 26, 2014. Due to pre-deployment training with the 24th MEU, Heemer ran the Marine Corps Marathon on a treadmill aboard the New York, finishing under the four-hour mark. The 24th MEU is conducting its final pre-deployment training exercise before a deployment at the end of the year. Courtesy photo 
 
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, finished the 2014 edition of the Marine Corps Marathon at 12:30 a.m. Oct. 26, hours ahead of the official beginning of the annual run. Instead of running alongside tens of thousands of fellow Marines, service members and competitors on a cool Virginia morning, he ran mostly alone, on a treadmill crammed into an out-of-the-way corner just off one of the New York’s passageways, cleverly named and affectionately known as “Broadway.”

Although this was Heemer’s first marathon on a ship or on a treadmill, it wasn’t his first Marine Corps Marathon. His first was in 2009, and the 25-year-old Penn State graduate has run the annual event every year since.

“I knew I might be embarked on ship this year, but I signed up anyway just in case,” he said. “I thought it would be silly to let the Marine Corps break my Marine Corps Marathon streak, so I decided I would run it aboard the ship.”

Support From Others Aboard the Ship

He said the hardest part was running without the camaraderie of other participants and without the spectators, who have always been there to cheer him on during the last five years. Still, he wasn’t without his share of support.

“I had some friends there with me. A lot of the other lieutenants took turns helping me out, running alongside me, and my logistics chief, Gunnery Sergeant Pangelinan, was there to push me through also,” he said.

Timing the Run to Accommodate Duty

Heemer started the marathon before midnight so he could finish on the actual day of the marathon and still perform his duties the following morning. Aside from being Marine Corps Marathon day, it also was the day of a large-scale amphibious assault, the culminating event of the 24th MEU’s pre-deployment training program.

As if that wasn’t enough for the Philadelphia native, his battalion also was in the final planning stages of a massive debarkation from the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where CLB 24 was scheduled to spend a week conducting an additional training exercise in the field.

The 24th MEU has been in a near-constant training cycle since the end of May, so the schedule has not been conducive for marathon training.

“Not one second,” Heemer answered without hesitation when asked how often he trained for this year’s marathon. “But that didn’t matter. Last year, I met a guy who had patches from over 25 consecutive years of running the marathon, and I decided I wanted to do the same.”

A Special Reason for Dedication

There is one other reason for his dedication to the Marine Corps Marathon. Three years ago, Heemer decided to run the marathon as a part of Team Travis and Brendan, named after two Naval Academy roommates who were killed in separate events while supporting combat operations overseas. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Travis Manion was killed by sniper fire in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2007, and Navy Lt. Brendan Looney, a SEAL, was killed in 2010 when his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.

The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, where every Marine officer spends six months learning how to lead infantry Marines in combat, has a barracks named after Manion.

“Manion Hall was being built while I was at TBS, and I remember reading the plaque in front of the building,” Heemer said. “I did some research and really liked what the foundation stood for, so I decided to join the effort.”

Considering the USS New York was built with 7 and a half tons of steel from the World Trade Center, perhaps it’s fitting that at least one Marine ran all 26.2 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon within the ship’s hull, representing a Marine and a sailor who died fighting the nation’s enemies. And even though it was on a treadmill crammed into a corner off “Broadway,” Heemer still managed to finish under the four-hour mark.

Heemer and the rest of the 24th MEU will take a couple weeks of well-deserved time off during November before their deployment at the end of the year. The 24th MEU is scheduled to support operations in the U.S. Africa and Central Command areas of responsibility.
 
Written Oct. 31, 2014 By:
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joshua Larson
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Air Force 2nd Lt. Holley Macpherson poses outside the 90th Operations Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Oct. 20, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason WieseF.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. – Every career begins with a first day on the job. Everyone has been the newbie at some point. And so it goes in the world of nuclear deterrence.

PHOTO: Air Force 2nd Lt. Holley Macpherson poses outside the 90th Operations Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Oct. 20, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason Wiese 
 
Air Force 2nd Lt. Holley Macpherson, a 320th Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, took a major step in her career this month, manning a launch control center for the first time.

Macpherson received her Air Force commission in May 2013 and attended pilot training shortly after. In March 2014, she attended initial skills training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, for five months to learn the basics of missile operations.

"They taught us a lot," she said. "They couldn't teach us everything, because you can't show everything in a trainer, but they tried to throw all the standard scenarios at us they could with the equipment we have down there."

After graduation and reporting to her assignment here, even more training lay ahead for Macpherson. After about a month on station, she was ready for her first alert. On Oct. 9, she descended into a launch control center here for her first alert.

Two-person missileer teams man the underground centers for 24-hour shifts, directing topside activities and monitoring the Minuteman III weapon system sorties their flight areas control.

Like a pressurized airplane cabin

Macpherson described the climate-controlled launch control center as feeling somewhat like the inside of a pressurized airplane cabin.

"We basically monitor, make sure all our sorties in the flight area are doing [well]," she said. "We're in charge of all the people out there, too." Missileers spend much of their time on alert communicating with maintainers and other operators.

It was nice talking to real people on the other side of the phone line rather than just the instructors playing a role during a training scenario, Macpherson said. "It was pretty similar to what we'd done in the trainers," she added. "I felt more comfortable down there than I thought I would, because I had spent so much time training."

Being on alert for real felt very different from the trainer rides -- the key difference being the actual missile connected to the equipment in the launch control center, Macpherson said, adding that the real-world mission brings with it a lot more pressure.

Paired with experienced commanders

Although the Air Force places significant trust in the new lieutenants who pull their first alerts, the new officers don’t go without help. They are paired with experienced missile combat crew commanders who are responsible for everything that goes on in their flight areas and train their deputies during their first alert shifts. Air Force 1st Lt. Julianne Jamison, a 320th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander, supervised Macpherson during her first alert and continues to do so on Macpherson's ongoing alerts.

Jamison walked Macpherson through the routine tasks missileers accomplish, testing her proficiency along the way. "She did very well," Jamison said. "I am lucky to have her as my deputy. She was just a sponge and running as much [of the mission] as she possibly could."

While in the launch control centers, missileers schedule their sleep and work rhythms to ensure the centers are constantly manned. Jamison said she woke up Macpherson several times during her first alert so she could witness real-world tasks being accomplished.

As the old saying goes, "Smooth seas don't make skilled sailors." This also is true for the alert officers in charge of vital nuclear assets. High activity levels in the center make for better missileers who are more capable of handling any situation that might come their way, Jamison said.

"I always tell my deputies: 'Never be afraid to wake me up,'" she said.

Much of the time in missileer training is spent simulating worst-case scenarios, so a look of anticipation hangs on the faces of new missileers while they are on alert -- a look that says, "I'm ready for everything," Jamison said.

"She asked me during her first alert, 'When do you feel comfortable?' and I told her it is really based on what you see during your first 10 to 20 alerts," Jamison said. "I really believe you need to learn if you're going to be a future commander. It does take a while, but you build that experience over time."

Squadron was helpful

Macpherson said when she first arrived with her fellow graduates, her squadron was very helpful in pointing them in the right direction and setting them up for success. "Everyone's really willing to answer whatever questions you have at any time," she said.

In the short term, aside from alerts, Macpherson undergoes regular update training to keep her knowledge and job skills current. The training includes simulation trainer rides, classes and self-study. Upgrading from a deputy to a crew commander can take anywhere from months to years, depending on individual skills and progress.

"I won't have to worry about new training until I upgrade to commander, which won't be for a while," she said
 
Written Oct. 30, 2014:
By Air Force Senior Airman Jason Wiese
90th Missile Wing

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Roberts serves food to children at the Boys and Girls Club of America in Christian County, Ky., Oct. 21, 2014, where he volunteers. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. MoellerFORT CAMPBELL, Ky.– For many soldiers, fulfilling the call of duty is sometimes not enough. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Roberts, a food service sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, uses his Army skills to make his community better.

PHOTO: Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Roberts serves food to children at the Boys and Girls Club of America in Christian County, Ky., Oct. 21, 2014, where he volunteers. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller 
 
For a little over a year, Roberts has devoted the majority of his off-duty time volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club of Hopkinsville and Christian County, Kentucky.

“It started with my church a little over a year ago, when I first got involved with the Boys and Girls Club,” he said. “They said, ‘We know you like to cook and like to take care of kids. Do you want to help out?’ and I said, ‘Sure,’ and the first time I went, I fell in love.”

Roberts said it was easy for him to enjoy helping, because he was using a tool the military ingrained in him to better the lives of children in need.

Helping children who might not get an evening meal

“We have assisted the Boys and Girls Club to be able to feed children who might not get an evening meal,” said Mary Curlin, ministry coordinator for All Nations House of Prayer and a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of Hopkinsville and Christian County. “They were not able to provide as many meals as they wanted to when they first started out.”

To help the Boys and Girls Club provide enough meals, Roberts said, he uses his own funds to buy what cannot be provided, because, it furthers his passion for both helping and cooking.

“Cooking is my passion,” he said. “It’s my job, and it’s nice to use what the Army has taught me, especially when using it at the Boys and Girls Club. There around 150 children who come here, and who can cook for that many people? Not too many, and with me having to cook in bulk all the time, [that] makes it that much easier.”

It also makes it a lot easier to work with children when you have children of your own.

“He has young kids. He interacts well [with these children]. He is a positive role model for the young men who come here; they look up to him,” Curlin said. “He has also taken on responsibilities of coaching in the Bud Hudson Football League, where a lot of the children on his team also come to the Boys and Girls Club.”

Coaching football

Coaching a team takes a good amount of effort, so to help with that, Roberts turned to his fellow soldiers for help. Army Pvt. Adrian Cortez, a food service specialist with the 5th Special Forces Group, coaches with Roberts.

“I started coaching with him because I love football and I love teaching these kids football,” Cortez said. “It helps make them better, and makes me better for teaching them.”

Roberts was nominated to accept his battalion’s jersey, which will be presented during a military appreciation observance at Austin State University’s Nov. 8 football game.

“Sgt. 1st Class Roberts has continually volunteered his time and energy despite long work hours running the dining facility and has never asked for anything in return,” said Army 1st Sgt. Steven K. Toro, first sergeant with the Battalion Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group. “He has made a significant impact in the Hopkinsville community and selflessly gives to underprivileged children in order to provide them with hot meals.”

Recognition is not the reason why he helps his community, Roberts said. “My first sergeant said that it’s because of all of the things that I do in the community,” he added. “He knows that I don’t do it for the glamour. I do it because I love it.”

Written Oct. 29, 2014 By:
Army Sgt. Justin A. Moeller
5th Special Forces Group

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00
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